Today was my last teaching day of the school year. I am working at my preschool’s summer camp for the next fortnight but summer break is in reach. I am looking forward to a summer spent hanging out with my kids, relaxing, travelling, spending time on hobbies and interests, and generally having a much more flexible schedule. This week, however, was completely hectic and crazy in the way that the final weeks of the school year always are so this week’s art journal effort is still sloppy and rushed. That’s OK, however, because I needed those 20 minutes of art time as a brief escape pod from my ridiculous schedule. I used this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt – the letter B – so I created a watercolour illustration of a Big Blue Bear.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “trees”. The obvious subject would have been a Christmas tree but I really was not in the mood to draw or paint one. I, therefore, chose to depict a frosty tree but in a slightly abstracted way. I worked on this page gradually over the week before Christmas and got it finished thanks to having two days off work while my kids were still in school. It is a bit sloppy and imperfect thanks to being worked on inconsistently and in a bit of a rush each time but it’s only an art journal page so that’s quite OK.
Next year, I am not signed up for any courses and I have no art based commitments or obligations. I am just going to do my own thing and will try to be disciplined about eking out some art time each week without having a prompt to do so.
I have not found time to tackle a Life Book lesson in a good few weeks now. I decided, therefore, to break my drought with a lesson by Wendy Brightbill that involved creating an abstract piece using liquid media and mark making. I am happy that I took time out of my massively busy life to work on this lesson as I did enjoy the process. I have been heavily involved in illustrations for months now, including my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project and Inktober, so it was a nice break and pretty liberating to do something completely different, just sploshing watercolour around without a great deal of thought. I have to state, however, that I don’t especially like the finished outcome. Hate is too strong a word but it really is not a piece I want to look at again. This piece was definitely about the journey rather than the destination.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and involved drawing two figures. I had not gotten around to working on Life Book lessons for a few weeks so I was keen to tackle this one over the weekend. I find drawing more than one figure in a piece to be fairly challenging because of the need to make them cohere and keep proportions and angles of light consistent. That was another good reason to complete the lesson. I had to improvise a lot with the lesson because I don’t own the markers that Laporte demonstrated. I, therefore, used ink and watercolour instead. I tried to stay true to one of the focal points of the lesson, however, by working on creating a range of skin tones. This is a skill I definitely still need to develop but I was nevertheless reasonably pleased with the flesh tones I created in this piece because at least I avoided making them too sallow or adding too much ochre.
My schedule was utterly slammed this week. Every space on the wall calendar was crammed with appointments and commitments and things that needed to be done. I thought there was not the remotest chance I was going to get to even view this week’s Life Book lessons let alone sit down and do something creative. However, two things happened this week that utterly jiggered my schedule and caused a great deal of hassle – one of my kids was off school sick for two days and then we had a snow day – but which actually meant I had more time stuck at home. More time at home meant I could actually get stuck into the lesson and art time was probably just what I needed to take the edge off the stress of a totally bonkers week.
The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. Tam always provides wonderfully in-depth videos for her lessons but there was no way I was going to find time to both view the videos and then still have time to create. I, therefore, read the accompanying PDF, modified the lesson by eliminating certain stages, and got stuck in. The crux of the lesson was a self-portrait scaffolded on an image transfer. I have never had much success with image transfers but I thought that was precisely why I should have another crack at it. The outcome was not ideal – I think I spread the gel medium too thinly in places – but is definitely the best I have produced so far so represents progress.
I then proceeded to paint on top of the image transfer and this was where I diverged from the lesson. I did not have time for layer upon layer of media so I limited myself to acrylic paint, Neocolor II crayons, and Inktense pencils and blocked in areas of colour and built up the detail of my face.
The idea of the painting was to include personal, symbolic elements and text alongside the self-portrait. It is not really my thing to be that personal and emotional with my art work. Art is definitely therapeutic to me but only in terms of the act of creating. I don’t need it to be a form of processing and expressing my thoughts and feelings and I am also too intensely private. I decided, however, that the self-portrait did need some finishing touches so I added some collage elements in the form of butterflies and leaves formed from text pages. All of those things could be interpreted as things that are important to me as a person – words and learning, growth, and change.
The only upside to my husband working out of town all week is that it freed up my evenings for some art time which meant that for the first time in what feels like ages I actually managed to complete two art lessons, one for each of the year long courses I am enrolled in. The Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Annie Hamman and was about painting a figure with hands in addition to painting the face. Hamman’s approach to painting is very, well, painterly. It’s fascinating to watch the way she builds up and refines that layers of paint so that precise features gradually emerge. I, however, am not remotely painterly in the way I handle paint. Despite having had regular practice since I first started exploring mixed media, I still have super limited skills when it comes to handling, manipulating and applying acrylic paint. Try as I might, therefore, I just could not refine the paint layers adequately enough so I diverged from the lesson (having already skipped a collage layer to save time) in order to use some other media to add the detail to the face and fingers. Looking for the positives, I am fairly pleased with how the hands turned out in this painting. I think the scale and angles read as correct. I took the photo of the finished painting with my phone rather than my DSLR so in reality the flesh tones are a bit warmer and the disc behind the head is metallic blue. My 11 year old commented that she looked like a female version of Jack Frost so I decided to go with that interpretation and title this piece Frost.
This week has not been a great art week for me. It has been a busy week and I have had one of my kids at home sick for two days. I have been too busy bleaching and disinfecting for the muse to visit me and my mojo has fled. Coinciding with this episode of artistic cack-handedness, both the art courses this week presented me with techniques I found very difficult. Maybe this week’s creative trough will lead me to an artistic peak next week.
This week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Juna Biagioni and was essentially about gradually pulling a face out of a background layer using very loose brush marks. I managed to start off with loose marks, moving the brush from my elbow rather than from my wrist, but in the final layers I tightened up too much. I should have re-sketched the facial features and proportions between layers as I once more ended up painting a face with a long nose, large chin, and heavy jaw line whereas the proportions I had originally sketched were much rounder and more petite. I guess everything gradually drifted south as I added each layer I also failed entirely to achieve the softness that Biagioni’s art work demonstrates.
I will add that the piece is much warmer than it appears in the photo. What looks very pale in the photo is actually a warm flesh tone in real life. However, since my DSLR broke and I have not yet plumped up the courage to attempt a repair, I am having to make do with my phone’s camera.